By Mike Ubani, Leadership
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
When he decided to build a 156-room (4 floors) office complex; a
skills acquisition centre/automobile/mechanic workshop, and an 88- room
hotel complex to be equipped with modern hospitality/training
facilities/schools, in Owerri, the Imo state capital, he was propelled
by the need to create wealth and reduce the level of unemployment in the
state. Beyond that, Governor Rochas Okorocha, unlike his predecessor
wanted to leave behind an enduring legacy in the state. But it appears
this vision is fast turning into hallucination.
Reason: A substantial amount of money initially released by the Imo
State government to the contracting firm, Hormipresa Nigeria Limited, to
kick-start the projects seem to have vanished into thin air.
According to the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, CEO,
Hormipresa Nigeria Limited, Mr. Emmanuel Benjamin Emenike, the company
received a mobilization fee of about N1 billion from the Imo state
government, out of which the sum of N450 million was paid into the
Spanish account of a Spaniard and director of the construction company,
Mr. Jose Marin Lopez-Pepe, to enable him travel to Spain to purchase
some essential equipment for the execution of the projects.
LEADERSHIP learnt that Lopez-Pepe claimed that his bank in Spain
seized the money on the basis that its source was suspect. The bank,
according to Lopez-Pepe, however, demanded an authorization from Imo
State government, before it could release the money to the Spaniard.
G. I. Ijeom, permanent secretary, Imo State ministry of lands,
survey, housing and urban development, in a letter dated May 9, 2013,
with reference No. MLSHUD/C/B.1233/T22C, and addressed to the managing
director, Banco Sabadel, SA, Spain, urged the bank to release the money
to Hormipresa, to ensure the execution of the projects.
“Information reaching us indicates that this said payment is
presently trapped in an NIFPS Account No. ES9800810210190001612762, with
“We are concerned with the slow performance of Hormipresa Nigeria
Limited and thus compelled to request your intervention for the release
of the said money to enable them continue work in our projects.
“Kindly take necessary steps to ensure immediate repatriation of this
money to Hormipresa as appropriate please, the letter reads in part.
Nevertheless, the Spaniard allegedly disappeared, and only reappeared
following his arrest in Lagos by the International Police sometime in
April, and was handed over to the Imo State Police Command for
He was later brought before a Federal High Court sitting in Owerri,
to face criminal charges of stealing and obtaining money by false
pretence vide suit No. FHC/OW/CS/24C/2013.
The case was later discontinued following an agreement reached
between Mr. Emenike and Lopez-Pepe, and signed by both parties to settle
the matter out of court. Mr. Tim Ewerem, signed as witness to the
Spaniard, while Chief Macdonald Amadi, signed on behalf of the
Government of Imo state.
A copy of the Memorandum of Understanding/Peace Accord entered into by both parties, and dated June 24, 2013, reads in part:
“That following the spirit of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR),
Barrister Joseph Nwadike for the prosecution, Barrister Martin
Ojenagbon, for the nominal complainant, Barrister Obiefule M. Ogbonna,
Barrister Abiodun Oduwole and Barrister David Diya Ashaolu, for the
accused person, unanimously consented to the agreement between both
parties for out of court settlement.
“That the Police Prosecuting Counsel (Barrister Joseph Nwadike),
shall obtain a bankers order and proceed with same to Spain in the
company of Emmanuel Benjamin Emenike, and any of Jose Marin Lopez
defence counsel, for the verification of Jose Marin Lopez account and
repatriation of funds found therein.
“That the passport or any other travelling document of the accused
person, Jose Marin Lopez be kept with the police, to restrict the
accused from travelling outside Nigeria until all the funds are verified
and/or repatriated to Nigeria.
“That all petitions to the EFCC should be withdrawn by a letter
addressed to the EFCC and copied to the Imo State Government, and the
Police Prosecuting Counsel.
“That a joint -press conference shall be conducted by the parties to
clear ambiguities and other misgivings in respect of this matter.
“That upon the signing of this document, Mr. Emmanuel Benjamin
Emenike (Hormipresa Nigeria Limited) hereby authorizes the police
prosecuting counsel to withdraw/discontinue the prosecution of the
criminal charge No. FHC/OW/CS/24C/2013 – The Federal Republic of Nigeria
versus Jose Marin-Lopez, pending before the Federal High Court 1,
Owerri, in which Mr. Jose Marin Lopez is standing trial as an accused
person before the Federal High Court 1, Owerri.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the same N3.5 billion contract being
handled by Hormipresa has been cancelled by the Imo State government,
and re-awarded to an Italian company.
The new company has already moved to site. An official of the
company, who spoke to LEADERSHIP on telephone, said the company was yet
to finalize agreement with the Imo State government to take over the
construction of those projects already started by Hormipresa.
When contacted on telephone Sunday night, Chief Amadi who signed the
peace accord on behalf of the Imo State government told LEADERSHIP that
he was behind the wheels, and therefore, was not in a position to answer
any question relating to the controversial project.
However, when LEADERSHIP got him again on telephone yesterday morning, he retorted: “this is a wrong number”, and switched off.
Meanwhile, the management of Hormopresia strongly believes that
Lopez-Pepe, has fled the country despite the existence of a peace accord
stipulating the refund of the money, and restriction order placed on
him not to travel out of the country until the money in question was
repatriated to the country.
In a letter to the deputy inspector general of police, DIG, ‘D’
Department, Force Criminal Investigation Department, C.I.D. Abuja, dated
October 10, 2013, Mr. Emenike called on the police to order the
re-arrest of Lopez-Pepe and Mr. Tim Ewerem, as well as re-instate the
criminal charges against the Spaniard, and “also initiate further action
to recover the sum of 1.8 million Euros (about N450 million) paid into
Lopez-Pepe’s account in Spain”.
The question on the minds of Owerri people is the rationale behind
cancelling the contract, and re-awarding it to another contractor, when
issues relating to the initial contract award were yet to be sorted out.
A source close to Government House, Owerri, said the issues would be
raised when Governor Okorocha reconstitutes his cabinet, and appoints a
new commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Development.